McCabe addresses commissioners as she keeps Polk Center in spotlight

Venango County commissioners were reminded at their monthly meeting Tuesday about the closure of Polk Center about a year ago.

Irene McCabe, whose sister lived at Polk Center for 70 years before she passed away in 2020, spoke to the commissioners Tuesday.

McCabe was the driving force behind the push by the Polk Center Strong group to keep the center open.

McCabe has taken it upon herself to write a report as to what happened to the residents who were removed from Polk Center, including how many have died after being moved, how much money the state says it has saved by closing Polk Center and how much money Venango County has lost as a result of the closure.

“Everyone who was involved personally has resolved this personally. My interest is more systemic. Where do we go from here and how do we heal?” McCabe asked the commissioners.

McCabe asked to meet with commissioner Ken Bryan to brief him on her findings. She noted Bryan’s background in business and also that commissioners Albert Abramovic and Sam Breene lived through and are well aware of the saga of the closure of Polk Center in all its painful detail.

McCabe also brought up Verland, a private company that has taken over the care of about 27 former Polk Center residents who still live at the shuttered center. She said she would also like to talk to Bryan about that situation.

“We just did a tour there and we have been talking to anyone and everyone about Polk Center,” Bryan said.

Bryan said he would be glad to meet with McCabe, and Breene asked if he could sit in on the meeting too.

“We have not backed off or forgotten about Polk,” Breene assured McCabe.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners approved changing the polling location in Jackson Township for the April primary election from the township municipal building to the Donation Hill Bible Church.

Melanie Bailey of the county elections office said the church is more ADA compliant and comfortable for the poll workers and voters.

Prior to approving the location change, the information about the proposed place change was posted publicly, Bailey said.

“Now that the change has been approved, we will be sending out letters to all voters in Jackson Township,” Bailey said.

In another matter, the commissioners accepted the retirements of three notable county employees.

The three include Sue Hannon, who worked for the county for 32 years, most recently as the county’s register and recorder for 14 years before resigning last month halfway through her fourth four-year term.

Major Smith has returned to retirement after coming back to the county for a year as interim warden at the Venango County jail. Smith had previously served for a number of years as the warden.

And Luann Hartman, who had been with the county for 23 years, most recently as director of Children and Youth Services, has also retired.

In other personnel action, Wesley Paxton was promoted from deputy warden at the jail to chief deputy warden, and Joab Orr was hired as deputy warden.

And Rodney Bedow Sr. was appointed to the Venango County Regional Planning Commission board.

The commissioners also approved proclamations for the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce 2023 Citizen of the Year Vince Witherup, Business of the Year 4 Your Car Connection and Partner in Business of the Year Cranberry Area School District.

They will all be recognized at tonight’s annual Venango Chamber banquet and awards ceremony at Cross Creek.

And a proclamation was also approved for the Oil City YWCA on the occasion of their 100-year anniversary this year.